It has been quite some time since something has come from The Amalgam. The site has taken a backseat as I looked to expand and grow as a writer in 2016. Now with the dawn of 2017, I have been contemplating future moves. I have been wavering on what to do with my personal blog. I would not be honest if I said I had not thought about shutting it down and accepting its role as an entryway into grander writing. Yet, the more I sat and thought about it, it would seem a disservice to The Amalgam to let it go. The goal for 2017 is mainly a re-interpretation of the site’s slogan, “A curious blend of music.” The site will become much less metal-centric and explore other music that myself and other contributors are keen on. So to kick off a new year and a rebirth of The Amalgam, here are my personal picks for what was the best that January had to offer (in alphabetical order.)
(Also, there will be much less first-person perspective in the future. I promise)
Bonobo – Migration
It has been roughly three to four years since Simon Green released new music. Green returned to his Bonobo moniker this month with his most organic and well-produced album to date. The ambient electronic soundscapes that he has created for almost 20 years is more radiant than ever. As the technology surrounding electronic music continues to flourish, so too does Green’s ingenuity. Migration also gives subtle nods to house and disco. These efforts culminate in a dazzling display of downtempo brilliance.
Emma Ruth Rundle – “Forever, as the Setting Son”
The LA singer-songwriter released a new single through her Bandcamp this month with the promise to donate all of the proceeds from the track to Planned Parenthood. “Forever, as the Setting Son” is a somber sequence. Emma makes sparse use of instruments, opting for the occasional piano notes to accompany her wonderful voice. As the song progresses, she seems to become overwhelmed by emotion, moved to tears as she gets choked up over her words. “Forever, the Setting Son” is a poignant moment that encapsulates much of the fears about the future of Planned Parenthood and other organizations threatened by a new American regime.
There has seemed to be an advent of Icelandic black metal fairly recently. A slough of bands have been churning out stunning displays of frigid might. Two Reykjavik bands that stand out are Misþyrming and Sinmara. The bands feature members of fellow Icelandic, or partially Icelandic bands like Martröð, Naðra, Skáphe, and Svartidauði. The pedigree is stout, the musical execution is ominous. Each band contributes a single track, Misþyrming with “Hof” while Sinmara unleashed “Ivory Stone.”
Palace of Worms / Ecferus – Split 12″
The second sensational black metal split that was released in January comes from two newer forces in USBM. Forgoing typical blackened stigmas and bandmates all together, both Palace of Worms and Ecferus caught the metal community by surprise last year with a combined handful of highly unique releases. 2017 sees the two gifted musicians team up for a full-length split album with six songs that chip away at the mold of black metal’s standards.
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
While RTJ3 was a fantastic Christmas present, its official release date was, in fact, this month. Killer Mike and El-P are back. This time, the duo are leaders of the rebellion providing a commanding voice against the suppression of the common American citizen. RTJ3 also includes high-profile features like Danny Brown, Kamasi Washington, and Zach de la Rocha to add intriguing layers to Mike and El’s dueling bars.
Sanguine Eagle – “A Vision of Supremacy Cast Upon Shango’s Hammer”
Brooklyn’s Sanguine Eagle has quickly become a personal favorite. The group is part of the mysterious House of First Light collective and released a stunning demo last year named Individuation. The group has started out 2017 by unleashing a brand new, 15-minute song that is featured on a split with the band Oppression. “A Vision…” captures the band’s raw, ferocious energy that has made them so popular amongst fervent underground metal fans.
Stellar Descent / Aylwin – Second Sequence
Yet another black metal split in this month’s best. Stellar Descent and Aylwin teamed up for an immersive, atmospheric black metal exercise with the funds from this split going to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to protect NPR and PBS. Stellar Descent, a duo for this album featuring Jon Rosenthal (Venowl, Footpaths) as bassist and an additional vocalist, brought a massive 30-minute song called “Moonrise.” Meanwhile, the California quintet of Aylwin delivers an equally entrancing 15-minute composition called “The Expiation.” Both bands make great use of soundscapes and calmer instrumentation to dovetail their segments of blackened fury.